Non-Timber Forest Produces

Forest resources are gift to mankind. Forests provide humanity a multiplicity of goods and services. The goods include timber, fuel wood, and NTFPs. They provide habitat for wildlife and the ecological conditions for maintenance and natural evolution of genetic diversity of flora and fauna. They are the abodes of traditional forest dependent communities. Forests and natural resources provide the foundation on which the structure of development and prosperity of the state is built.

With the deterioration of these ecosystems, their capacity to support human well-being is reduced. Unless they are managed well and efforts are made to increase the forest resource base, the very sustainability of man's life is under threat. Unfortunately the deterioration of these resources adversely affects the under privileged and down trodden sections of the people and society. We and our project focus project to promote the protection, regeneration, conservation and management of forest resources by the local communities in a democratic, participatory and decentralized manner.


The primary collectors and forest protecting communities and self-help groups especially that of the tribal and dalits are able to process and market their forest produces especially NTFP in lieu of fair prices and ensure their livelihood.


  • Improved forest conservation and management. Our 8 self help cooperatives are involved in NTFP value addition, processing and marketing which enabling them to enhancing their income immensely. Similarly, women have been playing a key role in protection and management of their nearby forest resources.
  • Increased participation in protection, conservation and management of forest resources by the local communities.
  • Traditional healers are preparing their herbs and medicines in scientific manner. Their lucrative packaging improved their stake in the local market and also in fair exhibitions. To preserve the endanger species the local healers are establishing backyard herbal gardens.

Policy and Practices of MFP

The NTFP policy of 2000 clearly mentions that the GP has ownership right over MFP. The issue of ownership over NTFP still lies undefined and remains dependent on how the Government defines NTFP and it is the FD (and not GPs), which is the ultimate authority in this regard. In other words, GPs can only exercise control over those produces that the FD decides as MFP. The policy further prescribes that all operations with regard to the trade and transaction of NTFP will be subject to the 'existing laws in force', i.e., subject to the Forest Act, Rules, Orders. It is pertinent to note here, as envisaged in the new policy, preservation of forests is still the responsibility of FD. Therefore, in keeping with this, exploitation of NTFP by Panchayat bodies will be subject to restrictions laid down in Indian Forest Act, 1927 and working plans, working schemes or regulations prescribed (from time to time) by the FD, thereby further squeezing the scope of activity of the GPs.

The policy has identified 85 NTFP out of which only 60 are termed as MFP and has been kept under control of GPs. Such a terminology for MFP neither has scientific basis nor any legal validity. Neither the central act nor any of the previous forest legislations ever uttered the word NTFP. They only used and emphasized the term 'MFP'. Later on by two other notifications the number of NTFP has been raised to 70. From these 70 items, only a few are procured commercially as neither primary collector nor traders have knowledge regarding domestic and commercial use of the rest. The GPs do not have control over high value NTFP like KL and bamboo that contribute around 95 percent of the forest revenue. The rationale behind treating KL as an excluded item for GP is understandable. But net income from KL operation is still spent on non-Kendu leaf area.

However, there is no logic as to why Sal seed cannot be put along with other TBOs, as dependence of forest dwellers on it is absolute and complete. Similarly, Sal leaf collection and stitching is a major source of cash income for forest dwellers, especially in belts like Mayurbhanj and Kandhamal districts, and the leaf has been put as a lease barred item.

Significantly, if we analyses the statistics of FD, the contribution of MFP in the tribal livelihood is high other than agricultural and wage. It has the potentiality to eradicate the poverty if these are totally used in efficiently in a sustainable manner. The terminology sustainable is only coated, still government has never comes with a proper plan to handle such lucrative produces which is being continuously feeding millions of people. State earned revenues from KL and bamboo is more than 100 crores rupees annually (in 2000-01 the revenue from timber and firewood was 17 per cent of the total revenue whereas the revenue from bamboo and KL was 71 per cent of the total forest revenue) but these grants are spending in non KL area. By this the real primary collectors are not benefited.

Database on NTFP and access to information

The government does not have adequate information on the real potentiality and status of NTFP in different parts of the state. There is also very little information available on the trade related aspects. After the promulgation of the NTFP policy in March 2000 there was problem in circulating the information to the GPs who are the owners of NTFP. Even implementing government officials don't have relevant information and clarity to carry out their responsibilities. There is no executive will to make the policy operational, both with regard to information sharing and capacity building with/of the GPs. In light of this it is difficult to ensure information flow on resource management to the level of Sarpanch, Panchayat Secretary and below. Still the government do not give adequate support services to is lower level institution to keeping record updated related to NTFP which more important aspects of tribal livelihood.

Price Fixation

Issue of price fixation and its ensuring remains an area of concern. The basis of price fixation remains ambiguous, as ever so is the ensuring part of it. There has been no effort in the past by the Government to create operational structures to ensure fair prices to the primary collectors even when price fixation was relatively decentralized and was fixed at district level. Now the bonus of fixing the price comes to Panchayat Samiti without any effort going to create operational basis for such decentralized price fixation. How the Panchayat Samitis will take the matter seriously is also a matter of concern. Since everything relating to NTFP boils down to remunerative prices to primary collectors, this still remains one of the most crucial issues needing immediate attention.

Conclusion with Reality

The Odisha State has understandably stressed on the revenue aspect and the primary difficulty with this approach is emphasis on timber based management and NTFP as livelihood resources is always negligible.

The tubers, roots, fruits and berries from the forests which are otherwise known as non- timber forest produces have been the lifeblood of the forest dwellers, especially the tribals in the forest areas of odisha. But policy makers strangely overlook the potential of NTFP in combating poverty and food crises. Rural poverty in India is understood primarily as deprivation of private land for cultivation and is understood as lack of access to paddy. The paddy- centric definition of poverty has made it very difficult for developing an appreciation of forest produces as an alternative option for many tribals in odisha and in other States. In present scenario, depletion of forest makes many NTFP in vulnerable condition; some NTFPs are under serious threats like Raulfia Sarfentina, Amla, Satabari, Nuxvomica, gums and resins etc. Almost these varieties of plants are evaporated from nature, by its commercial uses. With the wide open of the market big companies and traders are coming to catch the valuable produces, virtually the government marketing societies are also associated with them in the whole marketing process. Nobody is seriously looking after the harvesting mechanism of produces, to fetch the demand in the market the traders are also playing a major role they insisted the primary collector with little bit of lucrative amount. As forest is opened for all, unsustainable harvesting practices has done immensely, which leads to, important species are evaporated and some of them coming under endanger. It is noticed that use of tree born oil seeds at the primary collector level is declining rather they are preferred in using agricultural oil seeds for its easy access. One upcoming threat is being found in the tribal belt that now people are moved towards forest based economy to agricultural economy, definitely it effects upon the forest and NTFP. If properly managed and marketed, NTFPs have the potential of blemishing in prosperity in the lives of poor rural poor.

Despite the changes in the government's policies and practices, technological development and commercialisation, NTFP are not yet been properly managed and traded, and its real potential is never exploited. Poor people subsisting on NTFP for their livelihood still face a diversity of problems in collection, processing and marketing of NTFP. Certain issues in management and trade of NTFP have been presented below:

Sustainable harvesting and value addition

  • Forests have become degraded, and the primary collectors have to spend lot of time for collection NTFP and they cover long distance to procure and sell these produces.
  • Seasonality related problems - availability of high value products within short time span, which sometimes leads to non-procurement of certain items.
  • Most of the collection practices that are adopted at present are not technically appropriate and do cause damage to the process of natural regeneration. Inadequate efforts are being made to ensure quality production of NTFP which makes the NTFP of the area as low grade/value products in different markets.
  • Value addition of NTFP is yet to receive greater attention by the primary collectors' organisations, market promotion agencies and the government, which leads to low income from NTFP and also limited employment generation opportunities.

Procurement and trade

  • The primary collectors and their organisations such as SHGs, Forest Protection Committees etc. have poor assess to market. Absence of market related information at the primary collectors' level reduces the individual negotiation skill as well as collective bargaining.
  • Lack of mobility and connectivity - roads and transport facility - leads to high cost of transportation and also storage.
  • Mostly women are involved in collection, processing and sale of NTFP. Lack of information, education etc makes them vulnerable to the traders and they are susceptible to exploitation. Sometimes they are not able to calculate the price, profit etc and are easily carried away by the traders. Because of ignorance, there is widespread cheating by the traders in weight and measures as well as under valuing the quality of the produces.
  • Traders buy only from those gatherers who can arrange delivery at convenient points, from where the products can be easily transported. Buyers those who come to their doorstep (in the remote villages) take the produces at whatever price quoted by them.
  • Fragmented market creates dependency on middleman and number of intermediaries, which reduces the options for fair trade.
  • Poor market promotion efforts by the government and private agencies lead to exploitation of primary collectors by the local traders, agents etc.
  • Indebtedness and requirement of cash make the primary collectors fall prey to the traders, which lead to sale of NTFP at through away price.
  • Bargain power of the primary collectors is often siphoned away by the prevailing barter system in the local haats.

Issues faced by GPs

  • There is very limited awareness and understanding among the PRIs on MFP, rules and regulations on MFP etc.
  • GPs are already over-burdened and they are not showing keen interest in management of MFP rather they are more interested for development programmes to be implemented in their Panchayat.
  • The role of GP has been limited to only registration of traders and collection of registration fee of Rs. 100. Beyond this they don't monitor the activities of the traders in procurement of MFP in the Panchayat area. The GPs can't collect royalty or revenue other than Rs. 100. The traders by paying Rs. 100 take away truckloads of MFP from the area.
  • The GPs can't penalise or take any action against the traders who exploit the primary collectors. They have to depend on the DFO for taking action against the offenders.
  • It is very difficult to monitor the activities of the traders as they don't report to the GPs from where they are buying, what quantity and where they are storing the produces. The registered traders don't submit any report to the Gram Panchayat. GPs have no additional manpower to look into the management of MFP.
  • Fixation of price is not done in time by the Panchayat Samitis and after fixation of prices it is not properly disseminated to the GPs. The GPs also don't take appropriate measures for informing primary collectors on the price fixed. There is no proper guideline for fixation of prices at the Panchayat Samiti level.